Often referred to as the "attack leader" and compared to the quarterback in American football and the playmaker in football, the point guard is one of the most challenging roles in basketball. Playing in the point guard position requires great ball control skills, good scoring skills, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the team system. However, this versatile role allows you to play a vital part on the pitch, leading the team's attacking phase. Being a point guard is difficult, but it's also one of the most rewarding roles a basketball player can fill.
Part 1 of 4: Learn the Role
Step 1. Get the ball across the court
Basically, the point guard has the task of moving the ball on the pitch, keeping it in possession of his team, setting offensive games and, when he has the opportunity, even scoring himself. The point guard usually receives the ball when it is thrown back into play at the start of offensive possession. Generally, he will carry the ball all the way to the opponent's half, then stay around the three-point line to start the patterns.
Of course, there may be exceptions. For example, if the opposing defense is stretched and pressures across the board (i.e., they are marking all opposing players even before crossing the half-way line), the point guard may not have the freedom to carry the ball to the other side. of the field. In this case, he may need to pass it fairly quickly to a partner
Step 2. Keep the ball in possession of your team
While the point guard carries the ball, he will usually continue to dribble until the start of the pattern. The closer he gets to the basket, the more the defense pressure will increase. Usually, once he gets to the three-point line, he will have the opposing point guard closely marking him and he will not be able to continue without suffering intense pressure from the defense. As the point guard approaches the basket, he must be careful not to give the defense any chance to steal the ball.
Note that it is usually considered a bad idea for the point guard to stop dribbling prematurely (for example, at the start of a pattern). If the point guard stops dribbling, he can no longer move without committing an infraction, which means the defense can defend him more easily, as he can now only pass or shoot
Step 3. Pass to a free partner
One of the most important tasks for a point guard is to pass the ball to teammates who have a good chance to score. In general, if a point guard sees in the basket or on the perimeter a teammate who is not well looked after by the defense, he should pass it to him, so as to give him the opportunity to take a comfortable shot. A good point guard should have delivered a lot of assists at the end of his game - these are signs that he has passed the ball to the right teammates to increase his team's score.
Step 4. If you are free, take a jump shot or layup
While it is important for the point guard to allow "other" teammates to score, he himself should not shy away from scoring. If the point guard sees that all his teammates are marked by the opponents but he has room to score, he will have to attack the basket by going to the back for a layup or take a jump shot. If the defense sees that they can't do these things very well, they could give them some space and focus on other players, making it more difficult for the entire team to find their way to the basket.
A point guard with a reliable three-point or jump shot is especially valuable. With his prowess, he has the offensive potential to score from virtually any position, which means the defense must always put a man to heal him closely. This way the point guard's teammates will be able to score more easily
Step 5. Be ready for the defensive phase after the shot
Whether or not the shot enters the basket, the point guard should be ready to return to defense as soon as the ball has been thrown. Unless the point guard has seen some space and has not attacked the basket with a layup, he will likely be somewhere near the free throw line or along the three-point arc. This will greatly facilitate him in defense - precisely because he is the furthest from the basket, he is usually also one of the best positioned players to go and press his opponents right away in case you change possession.
Watch out for counter-attacks: if you see a defender start quickly towards your basket after a score or a rebound, follow him! At that moment you may be the only player who is not under the basket, and therefore you are the only one who can prevent the other team from scoring easy baskets
Part 2 of 4: Playing Attack
Step 1. Stand on the perimeter during the action
While a point guard can sometimes go to the basket, often his standard position will be that of the backmost player - usually on the three-point arc in front of the basket. This gives him a good view of the players of both teams, which is important for serving teammates with comfortable shots and setting up the patterns. Furthermore, in the event that he is not marked adequately, the point guard will have the simplest and most direct way to the basket.
Of course, the point guard shouldn't feel limited to this area. If an offensive play requires it, the point guard should feel comfortable playing anywhere on the pitch, even under the basket
Step 2. Direct your other teammates for the success of the schemes
As mentioned in the introduction, the point guard is usually a sort of "leader" of the offensive phase. Since he usually starts this phase with the ball in hand and stays on the perimeter during the action, he is in a better position than anyone else to tell his teammates what to do to score. It is usually very common for a point guard to direct his teammates' action with verbal commands, hand signs, and other code words. For example, for a certain action, he may shout the name of the pattern they have trained on or address a teammate suggesting that they jump to the basket with a look or a quick movement of the head.
- Point guard commands should always be used to create opportunities for teammates to score. If he cannot find a free teammate to pass the ball to, he is trying to get his teammates free so that he or someone else can score.
- To get an idea of the commands and instructions a good point guard gives, watch one in action. The next time you watch a basketball game, check out the point guard. You should see him constantly watching the pitch, shouting orders, and giving non-verbal signals to his teammates. For example, very often a point guard will ask to bring a block with simple eye contact with one of his teammates or by gesturing to the defender in front of him.
Step 3. Deliver the ball to your teammates with quick and effective passes
When a point guard sees that a teammate has an opportunity to score, he wants to get the ball into his hands as quickly as possible so that he can make a shot before the opportunity runs out. For this reason, point guards need to ensure that their passes are as efficient as possible. Point guards should use quick and powerful passes to give the ball to their teammates. They should not use passing moves that require a concluding move - this gives the defender an advantage, because he knows the point guard is about to make a pass.
- At the highest levels, point guards sometimes make no-look passes, behind-the-back passes, and complicated feints for an extraordinary result. However, unless you are experienced with certain moves, don't use them in a game. Never try to make a spectacular pass when a simple one would still work.
- Be wary of passing the ball in the middle of a group of players, even if the teammate you want to pass the ball to is free. The more defenders there are in the path of the ball, the higher the chances of the pass being intercepted.
Step 4. Know when (and how) to shoot
As already mentioned above, if the point guard is also a threat with his shot, it represents an added value to the offensive phase. If the defense believes you are capable of scoring, they will mark you, freeing up spaces for your teammates. The best way to become a defense threat is to "score when you can". If the defense leaves you a lot of room, punish them.
- For example, let's say you pass the ball to a teammate, who is immediately marked and cannot shoot. If the defender who is marking you follows the ball, you will want to get the ball back from your teammate to shoot right away - usually your teammate will be able to deliver the ball to you before the opposing defender has managed to get back to marking you. Note, however, that this implies that both you and your partner know what the defense is doing.
- If you have a defender in front of you when you are trying to shoot, one way to create an open shot is to fake a shot. Basically, you do to start your shooting movement, then stop it suddenly. Keep your feet on the ground, bend your knees, grab the ball with both hands, and bring it up to your nose as if you were going to pull. If done right, your defender may jump to stop the shot, giving you the opportunity to go around him or time to shoot as soon as he falls back to the ground.
Step 5. Check the pace of your possessions
Since the point guard has the ball most of the time his team has possession, he basically has to control how "fast" the game has to move. If he takes time to pass halfway and build a shot, he is said to be "slowing down the pace of the game", while if he speeds things up or immediately passes the ball to a teammate who has a comfortable shot, he is said to be "speeding up the game". Both can be smart choices, depending on the game situation. Below are some examples of situations that could lead you to speed up or slow down the pace:
- Your team is in the lead after a few counterattacks that ended with baskets, but your teammates seem tired. In this case, slow down the game to give your teammates time to recover - you will likely reap the benefits in the long run, even if you don't score points immediately.
- Your opponents seem visibly tired. In this case, look for some space to start the fast break to speed up the game and score easy baskets - the defense doesn't have to decide the pace of the match, so take advantage of their fatigue!
- You started a counterattack, but your opponents have regrouped and now, with the defense lined up, they are defending the basket well. In this case, don't go into penetration against the deployed defense - on the contrary, stay on the perimeter and wait for your teammates to catch up with you.
Part 3 of 4: Playing Defense
Step 1. Stand on the perimeter, marking the other point guard
Just like on offense, the point guard usually stays in the free throw line area or near the three point arc. In this way he will be able to control the opposing point guard well, essentially playing in the opposite way to what he did in attack. This allows you to put the pressure on the opposing point guard that is necessary to prevent him from shooting or going for a basket as soon as he passes halfway.
As with offense, however, there are many cases where you will need to move out of this standard position, depending on how your opponents move. For example, if the point guard passes the ball to a teammate and then moves towards the basket, you will have to stick with him, denying him an easy way to go to the basket. In this case, he may be looking for a way to get the ball under the basket for a comfortable layup, so try to get between him and the basket
Step 2. Take a strong defensive posture
A famous saying in basketball is that defense is 90% heart, 10% skill - in other words, strategy is simpler, but your physicality is more important. To be as effective as possible on defense, you need to be aware of the way you are using your body to mark the opponent. Below are some general tips for the defensive phase of point guards:
- Stay low. Keeping your shoulders down and hips back while marking an opponent makes it easier for you to react to his movements - particularly if he tries to walk around you.
- Keep your hands ready. Defensively, many players keep at least one hand raised to stop the opponent when they are in a danger zone. Many others like to keep one hand down to try to intercept passes and try to steal the ball.
- Stand about an arm's length away from your opponent. If you are too far away, your opponent may take a shot before you can block him, but if you are too close, he will have no trouble getting past you.
- You must have quick feet. Take small, quick steps like a forward in American football. The faster the steps, the faster you will be able to react to the opponent's changes of direction.
Step 3. Cover the passing lines
Since you are marking the opposing point guard, you need to be on guard for many passes. It's almost impossible to stop every pass, and if you try, your opponent will easily learn to knock you out with feints and go for the basket. Instead, try to figure out where your opponents are so that when you see that the ball is coming, you can stand on the opponent's passing line just as he is doing it, to try to intercept him. The balance between intercepting the pass and marking the point guard is difficult to find, so a good defensive point guard has a high value.
Precisely because he has his back to the basket, it is usually more difficult for a defensive point guard to understand what is happening on the pitch than the equal role he is attacking. You can take quick glances behind you and to your sides to figure out the positioning of the attack, but don't take your eyes off your man for too long or he may take an easy shot
Step 4. Avoid opposing counterattacks
As mentioned above, sometimes the point guard is the only defender who is in a position to defend an opponent's breakaway. In this case, try to stay between the ball carrier and the basket. Don't get overtaken, otherwise he can score easy points. Be prepared to follow him to the basket - most counter attacks will end with a layup attempt.
Counter attacks are very difficult to defend if you are in a one-on-two situation. In this case, you have to avoid getting too attached to one or the other opponent. If you do that, the runner will pass it to the other and you won't have time to counter him before he goes to score. Try to stay in front of both of them and between them and the basket. Balancing your attention between both players will slow them down and give your teammates time to return to defense. If a player stops dribbling before they are close to the basket, be prepared to cut the other player out and win the rebound. If either player has an easy shot near the basket, be ready to block him
Part 4 of 4: Becoming a Leader
Step 1. Learn your coach's patterns
Compared to other players, the point guard usually has a special relationship with the coach. The point guard is responsible for setting up the coach's offensive games on the field, but he must "also" know the coach's overall game plan, necessary to call the patterns on the fly when necessary. For these reasons, a point guard must understand and know the coach's offensive system better than anyone else on the team (and must also be able to carry out the instructions given by the coach during the match).
Also, since he usually has control of the ball at the start of the play, the point guard also has to take on certain special tasks, such as calling a time out. Knowing when to do these things requires both the point guard to know the coach's plan and to read match situations (especially towards the end of the match, when time outs and other game-breaking tactics are common)
Step 2. Communicate often with your peers
A point guard who is unable to communicate with his teammates on the pitch can be a serious limitation to his team. Point guards should use their voice and body to direct teammates to scoring opportunities, to set the patterns, and so on. An important part of developing these communication skills happens through a lot of team training, so that each player knows what signals to expect and how each team member communicates as a player.
The point guard may want to talk to his teammates and agree on a system of signals, code words, and so on, to keep the team's tactics on the pitch a secret. For example, if the point guard raises a fist when he is on the edge of the painted area, this can be a signal for the small forward, who will have to cut on the three-point line and prepare to receive a pass
Step 3. Set an example
Due to your particular position, other teammates (especially the less experienced ones) may take a cue from you as a "yardstick" for matches and training. A good point guard takes the game seriously, works hard during training, listens to the coach, and tries to improve their way of playing even outside of training. Equally important, encourage peers to do the same. By earning the respect of his teammates through work and commitment, the point guard can improve communication within the team and can help build good team spirit on the pitch.
Step 4. Learn by watching the NBA's best point guards
In professional basketball, great point guards abound - some are league legends, while others still play now. Watching these point guards dominate on the pitch can be a source of inspiration and makes you fly low, and the amateur point guard can also try to learn from them to improve their game. Here are some of the NBA point guards who are believed to be among the best ever in this role:
- Isiah Thomas
- Gary Payton
- Magic Johnson
- Jason Kidd
- John Stockton
- Learn to pretend! This will help your game in case of heavy pressure when dribbling on the pitch.
- Training, training, training.
- Learn the basics and rules of basketball before entering the court! For a quick refresher, read How to Play Basketball.